Healthcare providers and health insurance companies juggle massive amounts of information on a daily basis. Much of this information is protected under HIPAA, which creates unique digital marketing challenges and limitations.

This however should not deter your organization’s digital marketing efforts. A 2015 study conducted by Deloitte found significant numbers of people turn to the internet at crucial times in the prospective journey:

Over half of all consumers surveyed, and between 60 and 70 percent of those who experienced a health issue, say they have looked online for information about treatment options or more generally to learn about health concerns or care providers.

Source: Health Care Consumer Engagement No “One-Size-Fits-All” Approach.

Healthcare consumers today are much more educated than they were in the past and look online for this education–whether it be for health education or to compare services and value. Competition has increased but opportunities simultaneously abound with this transformation. To effectively capitalize on this digital shift in healthcare and insurance, here are 7 questions you should ask when considering hiring an agency:

1. What Will You Do to Optimize Our Search Presence?

A good agency knows that mobile searches are are on the rise and even beginning to surpass desktop searches, and designs a mobile strategy for this opportunity. A Google study found that 44% of people who research hospitals on a mobile device schedule an appointment.  

Furthermore, an agency must identify the most common routes to conversion and capitalize to increase ROI.

Web design, SEO and content come together to form the necessary base for your web presence. An agency needs to have teams in each of these disciplines with copywriters to produce content capturing the attention and trust of readers searching for answers to their questions. This is also necessary to rank on search engines.

2. What Mediums Do You Suggest Advertising On?

As 84% of patients use both online and offline sources for hospital research, a comprehensive strategy thus incorporates both digital and print placement. There is no question that digital efforts are vital to an effective marketing strategy.

There are many options for digital platforms; how many you use should depend on your budget and your target audience. If your budget is limited, focus on one or two platforms, like Google’s Adwords and Facebook. In order to gain good data that you can analyze and improve upon, you need a robust statistical base. Spreading your resources thin among various platforms will prevent you from accruing meaningful data and cause you to spin your wheels.

If your target prospect is older, Bing may be a good option with its older userbase. Most are over 35 and less tech savvy. CPC is generally cheaper than Google by about 41.5%. Source: Aborg.

3. How Will You Utilize Social Media To Benefit My Organization?

More than 40% of consumers are influenced by social media in dealing with their health. Source:

In addition to the ethical benefits of making sure the right information is put in front of people’s eyes, this simultaneously presents an opportunity for your organization to encourage consumers to utilize your healthcare services or insurance.

Health care organizations can encourage patient discussions on social media platforms much like forums. Discussions lead to organic visibility and engagement because participants’ friends see their comments, are likely to engage, causing the friends’ friends to engage, and so on, further spreading the post.

In these discussions, providers can show their expertise and become a familiar trusted face. Periodic “Meet your Physician” posts that humanize practitioners will further inspire familiarity and trust.

Another great way to advertise your organization is to literally show what it is like there. Posting pictures and videos of the facility that shine your organization the best of lights will break down mental barriers. A video that shows what it is like to walk into the facility and be greeted at the front desk will go a long way; showing it as accessible, inviting, and enjoyable will drive new patients. Throw in videos of inspiring patient stories periodically and your brand will be associated with the real reason for all of your hard work: to positively impact people’s health and lives.

Paid promotion on platforms like facebook can be very effective in the healthcare industry since there is less competition than other industries. Creative targeting opportunities abound but it is vital that your practitioner has expertise in HIPAA restrictions to avoid violations.

4. Are You Positioned to Set Up and Track Call Only Campaigns? Can You Do So Without Violating HIPAA?

A majority of appointments are still booked via phone call. Tracking the user journey and origination of these calls is vital to improving your strategy.

HIPAA forbids the recording of these phone calls. Violations can be extremely costly so you want to be sure that your agency has control over its vendors and platforms that are used to track these calls, with the ability to alter certain capabilities that would otherwise be set as the default.

5. Does Your Agency Report on Metrics Focusing on Visibility or Leads?

If an agency calculates their fee based on the percentage of your paid placement, they likely will track and frame your “success” based on impressions, engagement, and other awareness-based indicators. These indicators make sense for some scenarios: if you are a hospital advertising emergency services in certain regions, the patient is not going to call for an appointment or fill out a form. They are simply going to find your location and show up at the ER.

But for most services that require an appointment, an agency’s metrics need to be focused on leads and conversions. For example, customers seeking health insurance are going to sign up online, fill out a form, or call your office. Patients searching for a general practitioner, a bariatric specialist, or other appointment-based care will do the same. In these cases, an agency should be tracking leads to provide a superior analysis of your return on investment.

This emphasizes the importance of hiring an agency that operates on a flat fee rather than percentage of spend. It is crucial that your agency’s interests are not contrary to yours. Sidenote: Contracts that force you to stay with an agency are also red flags. See why here.

6. Will You Make Local Search Results a Priority?

Local Search SEO needs to be a priority if you are a healthcare provider. Studies show that resources spent towards local search results pay off the most.

As customers search for providers near them, you need to appear at the top of local search results and have great reviews.

7. What Other Trends Have You Identified That Can Help Us?

There are unlimited strategies that can increase the effectiveness of your digital marketing efforts. Basic strategies such as bidding on your (and competing) physicians’ names, advertising new equipment, programs, and wings, and clearing communicating what insurance your facility accepts are low hanging fruit to start with. Meet with agencies to get ideas that they think will be successful for your unique differentiating qualities and needs.

If your team has been thinking about a change but feels overwhelmed by the process, feel free to contact us for an effortless assessment.

Or, take a look at some of our clients’ recent successes.